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Sides firm for Labor leadership battle

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Labor frontbencher Penny Wong has confirmed she is backing Anthony Albanese to become the party’s next national leader.

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The South Australian locked in her endorsement on Wednesday, a day after shadow treasurer Chris Bowen launched his own bid for the role.

“Albo is the outstanding parliamentarian of our generation,” she told reporters in Adelaide.

“Anthony Albanese knows who he is and he knows what he stands for. He’s a man of authenticity and integrity.

“He’s got a capacity to speak to people across this great country, to speak to people in the regions and in the outer suburbs, as well as in our cities.”

Wong wants to remain Labor’s leader in the upper house – a position she has held for many years.

Asked why she would not contest the Labor leadership ballot, she said: “I’ve never wanted that job and I’m supporting Anthony Albanese.”

Wong appeared to send a coded warning to interim leader Bill Shorten, amid reports he was actively trying to prevent Mr Albanese from becoming leader.

“I would be surprised if that were occurring,” she said.

“It wouldn’t be consistent with the role of a former leader or current interim leader and it would undermine the unity that Bill has been such an important part in rebuilding.”

Wong and Albanese are both from the left wing of the Labor party, while Bowen is from the right.

However, his NSW right affiliates Tony Burke and Kristina Keneally are backing Albanese instead.

Even still, the shadow treasurer is confident he has strong support after speaking to most of his colleagues.

“I think it’s fair to say I would have majority support in a Labor caucus,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

But Bowen carries the burden of being the architect of Labor’s unpopular plans to scrap franking credit tax refunds and cracking down on housing perks.

Bowen says he will start with a blank policy slate if he becomes leader.

It’s not too late for others to put up their hand for the Labor leadership.

Labor’s finance spokesman Jim Chalmers is being encouraged to run, but it’s understood his thinking has been impacted by factional colleague Bowen’s announcement.

Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, from the left faction, ruled herself out on Monday, saying it was not her time.

The leadership will be decided by a vote of grassroots members and the federal parliamentary caucus, with each group given 50 per cent weight.

Caucus will not be told the result of the grassroots vote before MPs make their decision.

-AAP

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